Where, oh, where do I begin? There are so many beautiful, awe-inspiring memories I’ve made over these last three years, yet there is so much mind-crippling, heartbreaking, soul-crushing sorrow. I wanted to update you all within these last three weeks, but I just haven’t had the emotional strength. Even now as I’m typing this up, my eyes are tearing up to where I can barely see my screen.
So, here is your fair warning now. Do Not Read Without Tissues.
I originally intended this post to be written about my experience with meeting all of my paternal siblings. However, there was a tragedy with my biological father that occurred during my first visit in which I met all my brothers and sisters. We all knew the struggles of what my father went through, but everything happened so fast, and before we knew it, well … I’ll get to that soon enough. For right now, under Part One, I wanted to highlight the beautiful experience of meeting all my siblings and my eleven-month-old niece, and you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the awesome pictures below.
It’s been a long time coming, three years and four months to be specific, but … I finally met them! I met all of my brothers and sisters! WOW! When I was young, I wished I had a sister, though God went above and blessed me with two! Two beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring sisters, and I’m so incredibly honored to be their big sis! I met both my sisters and my youngest brother when my maternal grandmother and I flew out to Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, June 14th, 2022. Below are some mini slideshows of our first few pictures together, and for those of you who’ve been following my story from the very beginning, I’ll introduce you to my entire family in a way that will help you understand who everyone is.
First up in the slideshow is the oldest of my two sisters, but the youngest of our Dad’s natural children, Alyssa. Alyssa and my maternal grandmother got along very well, and it was a joy to see this new blending of our family in person. Alyssa has such a beautiful heart and a child-like love of Jesus Christ that it’s awe-inspiring because child-like faith in Jesus has a strength in it like no other. Don’t let the seriousness of the picture of Alyssa and my Grams fool you; Alyssa is teaching Grams how to play her favorite Harry Potter jewel game, and they were having a grand ol’ time. It was such a joy and treat to see!
The first photo in this second slideshow is of me posing with Mama Shannon’s mama, which means I’m blessed to call her one of my bonus grandmas, Glenda. She’s just the sweetest, and she’s got an unlimited amount of amazing hugs for anyone who wants one! Next in the lineup of photos is me and Johnathan, the oldest of my two brothers. You can’t tell in this photo, but Johnathan is super tall, I think even taller than my maternal brothers! Johnathan was sweet enough to position himself lower so we could get a good enough picture together.
In the first picture of the next mini slideshow below is my youngest sister, Sarah. She’s married, and she’s a mommy to a beautiful eleven-month-old baby girl, Ariella, whom I have the pleasure of calling my niece! I haven’t been around a baby in so long, and I can’t even describe how it felt to meet my adorable niece and have some one-on-one quality time with her. My cup runneth over with how precious she is! While I do have some pictures of Ariella, most of them are only photos I’d share with family and my closest friends. However, you’ll have a chance to meet her in a couple of the family photos at the end of this post.
Following my picture with Sarah, you’ll meet Andrew. He’s the youngest of all four of my paternal siblings, and when I take all nine of my siblings into account (I’ve got a total of three maternal brothers, two step-brothers, two paternal brothers, and two paternal sisters), Andrew’s also the youngest in that category. Under normal circumstances, being that he’s still in high school, I debated on sharing this, as I don’t like sharing photos of minors, but this is a special post, and it wouldn’t feel complete without including all my siblings.
The photo below is of me and another one of my bonus grandmothers, the second of Dad’s stepmothers, Lisa. With the background she has in her career, she is a wealth of knowledge, and honestly, she is one of those people you could sit down with and talk to for hours. She will listen to what you’ve got in your heart, and she’ll always have a gold nugget of insight for you.
There may be such a technical term as step-parents (as is the case with Mama Shannon to me, and Lisa to Dad), and adopted (as is the case with Johnathan, Sarah, and Andrew), but in our family, these terms don’t exist in our vocabulary. No matter how far we may live apart, we are one family, under one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. This trip to Arkansas, it took a major toll on me, and by this, I mean emotionally, mentally, and physically. It was so bittersweet; sweet, because our family was finally all together under one roof, but it also has a bitter ending, which you can read more about in Part Two below.
Here comes the most difficult part, though I guess I should start from the beginning. So, on April 9th, 2022 at 11:18 AM, in a private message from Dad, he’d alerted me to the fact that he wasn’t feeling well in the last few weeks leading up to this point of our talk, and he’d explained he’d been having chest pains and concerns regarding his esophagus, though he hadn’t made the news public yet. Fast forward to one month later, one day after my birthday, they diagnosed him with aggressive Esophageal cancer which had already spread to several vital organs and metastasized. For a man who, for so many years of his life had a clean bill of health, this news came as a total shock to all of us and our community.
In the days following Dad’s tragic diagnosis, I’d felt an urge, the strongest urge I’d ever felt in my life, and I knew, I knew in my bones, that I had to fly out to Arkansas to see him. Financially speaking, Grams and I couldn’t afford flight tickets, but my legal father and stepfather, as well as my maternal aunt, had chipped in for plane tickets for us. It took a little time of begging, but I’d soon convinced Grams we needed to go.
It’d been extremely difficult these past few years, since finding my biological father and family, to spend a good amount of time with them in person since my first meeting with Dad and Mama Shannon, and the time that Dad stopped by for a few days when he was in the business of transporting RVs. Times have not been kind to either of us, and both sides had their own things going on in their own lives, and also, don’t forget that we were in the middle of the pandemic. I hate that I didn’t get to spend more time with Dad in person, but my connection to him had grown so deep over these last three years that it felt like I’d always known him.
Do you remember when I said in one of my earlier posts of this series, where I said that growing up I had felt like half of me was missing and that when I found him and met him, and saw our familial bond being blended amongst my paternal and maternal sides? Well, it sounds crazy, but in the days following Dad’s diagnosis, I felt like I was losing that piece again. I believe that’s why I felt the intensely strong urgency in needing to go see him. I knew deep down if I didn’t fly out to Arkansas, I’d never see him again on this earth.
It seemed impossible at first to convince my grandma to get us to go see him. Then, out of nowhere, she said she’d book the flights if I could get the time off, but she didn’t trust that I couldn’t get the time off at my new job. A very good friend of mine, whom I also work with, had helped me to find the flights that we needed, but then trying to get the time off became a nightmare. Had it not been for our amazing boss, as he’d gone above and beyond to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, Part One written above wouldn’t have even been possible, and I’d have missed the moments that my biological father and I needed.
But God! God provided a way. It was messy and rocky, but He was there the entire time, ensuring that everything worked out just the way it was meant to be. Throughout this whole process of trying to secure this trip, though, I had asked Mama Shannon to keep my trip planning a secret from Dad, because I didn’t want to disappoint him by telling him I was coming before everything may have possibly fallen through. At the same time, if everything worked out the way I wanted and needed it to, then it’d be a wonderful surprise for him.
And what a surprise it was to him when he saw me walk through the front door of his house on Tuesday, June 14th, 2022! He was relaxing (as well as a cancer patient could, anyway) on his special recliner chair in the living room with an incredibly confused look on his face. He thought his pain medicines were causing him to hallucinate, but he quickly realized I wasn’t a hallucination. Then, in a surprised but soft tone, he’d asked me, “What are you doing here?”
I then told him, in the same gentle, loving voice he’d used with me, “I’m here to see you.”
I will never forget the look on his face. I have no words on how to even describe the way he looked at me. That’s how powerful the expression on my daddy’s face was. Tears slipped down his cheeks as he reached out for me. I took his hand, gave him the hug he wanted, and once more felt that feeling of wholeness. To an outsider looking in, this would be weird, but allow me to say this.
From the night that I had my first telephone conversation with him, I knew he and I were so much alike; it is uncanny! We’re both stubborn, almost to an uncompromising point, and I say this with a chuckle, but we still allow room for listening to another’s view and finding a way of compromise, whatever the concern at hand may be.
We’re also both deeply sensitive, highly optimistic, and have strong family values. There are other things we have in common too, but these are some of the major points. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me that I’m so much like him, or that I looked so much like him. Even my best friend up in Canada, who’s never met him, said she felt like she knew him, and I believe it’s because she knows me so well.
This trip to Arkansas, it was so, so, so important. Because I flew in on the 14th, and because I wasn’t flying back home to Pennsylvania until Monday, June 20th, 2022, this meant I would get to spend Father’s Day with him. Growing up, I have never spent a single Father’s Day with any father figure, and there are simply not enough words to explain how … difficult and … incomplete that feels. Yes, we had quality time over the past couple of years on Father’s Day through video calls and whatnot, but … there’s no comparison to truly spending this special day in person, and now I finally had that chance!
I remember him telling me several times over the years how he hated not knowing I existed when I was born, and he’d apologized to me a few times for not being able to be there for me when I was born. That really stuck with me, because he loves children. He loves children so much that he and his wife adopted three kids after having one of their own! It truly bothered him knowing that he couldn’t be there for me growing up. So, I made a very special project for him.
I did research into what the weather was like where and when I was born, and I also enlisted the help of my legal father with describing what the moments of my birth were like. The poem came to me in pieces but it came together so beautifully. Through a spot of cardio exercise, I made my heart race fast enough to record it as if it was the heart rate of a newborn baby. Then, I added music and planned to play this audio file while presenting my poem while asking him to close his eyes and hold a baby doll that was just about my size. At the end of the audio would be the sign of a little newborn baby’s first cry.
The idea was to make him feel like he was truly there the day I was born, to make him feel like he had in his arms the baby girl he never got to hold. The vision was so beautiful and so perfect in my head, and I couldn’t wait until Father’s Day to give him this gift. I knew it would’ve made him so happy, so happy that he’d have cried, and I knew his heart would’ve swollen with such joy and fatherly love.
I have to say that one of the most incredible parts of this whole journey to Arkansas was that we were ALL together under one roof. We even took family photos. We had plans to have a professional photographer take the shots, but there was an emergency on the photographer’s end. We understood, of course, but it was decided this snafu wouldn’t deter us from taking pictures. We all wanted the photos together, though Dad wanted it most. Through all his pain and struggle, with some time, patience, and help from Andrew and Johnathan, we all went outside, and some of us took turns in snapping photos. A good friend of the family even took a special photo of ALL of us together. You can find them all in the slideshow below, and I put the photos in order of oldest to youngest, followed by all of us kids (and Sarah’s) with Dad and Mama Shannon.
These family photos were all taken on Saturday, June 18th, 2022, and they’re just so precious to me. There is one more photo I will share, and it’s my all-time favorite one, but I’m saving it as the last thing you see in this series. I won’t deny that these photos were edited, as Dad’s skin had become jaundiced, and I tried my best to offset that. There was just so much going on with his health that it doesn’t surprise me to have seen this side effect. Saturday had an array of chaos and confusion, but after Dad made the final decision of having these pics taken, everything seemed to have calmed down. Dad was in good spirits too. I went to bed with peace of mind and excitement for the following day.
And then … Father’s Day was here! It started out slow, kind of relaxed with Mama Shannon resting in bed from her recent surgery, and Grams was still sleeping. Lisa and I had quite a morning chat as we sat over at the dining room table near Dad’s hospital bed, and periodically we would check on him, make sure he had everything he needed. Dad wasn’t feeling well at all this morning, so I decided not to push him with the presentation of my gift. I told him I had a special surprise for him, and I told him to let me know when he wanted it and was ready for it, and I just let him get some rest in the meantime.
The day began to progress into the afternoon, and before we knew it, Dad’s pastor and the pastor’s wife, as well as a couple other people came over to visit. Dad wanted so bad to go to church that morning but he wasn’t able to, so Pastor Paul came to him instead. I saw the tears on my Dad’s face when Pastor Paul approached him. I don’t know what was said between all of them, but I know in my heart that my dad was so pleased to see them, and it was easy to see he felt overwhelmed with a flood of emotions. They soon went into prayer mode over my Dad, and then they prayed over Mama Shannon too.
I left them all alone to do their thing because prior to coming on this trip, I had been struggling with my faith. The news of my father’s diagnosis after my birthday made me angry and bitter. I was dangerously close to walking away from faith altogether, and I was waiting for the right moment that would put out that tiny dying flame. I was riddled with questions of, “Why?”
Why cancer? Why Dad? Why now?
Why do I keep losing so many people I love so dearly to cancer? WHY?!
Why did I have to lose my baby brother to cancer? He was only two years old, innocent, and sweet, so what did he do to deserve cancer and lose his battle to it? Why did I have to lose one of my dearest friends from early childhood, Rachael, to the same exact cancer my baby brother had? She was only four! She was innocent and didn’t deserve it either!
Why did I have to lose my first stepdad to cancer? On Christmas Day no less? Like, WHAT is going on and WHY? And, now, my other stepdad has cancer too! Thankfully, he’s got a good fighting chance, but still, he doesn’t deserve it either. So, again, I ask … why?
And, finally, my dad, my biological father whom I only found three years and five months ago, now has it too. Why him? I just found him nearly three and a half years ago! I missed out on so much stuff with him that I should’ve had growing up. Three and a half years isn’t nearly enough time. Why is this happening?
I’m sorry. For those of you who’ve known all weekend that I was going to get this up on Saturday by the afternoon, and again by the end of the day Sunday, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get it completed sooner. It’s been incredibly difficult writing this part because I’m currently experiencing a huge wave of grief. I can’t even get through with typing this paragraph without tears of anguish streaming down my cheeks. Please forgive me.
I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of exactly everything that transpired with my dad’s health between Father’s Day and Monday, June 20th, 2022, and you know, what you read below is going to seem like a lot but it isn’t even half of what was going on! However, this is what I will say:
I loved my daddy, deeply, and he loved me just the same, and I waited in anticipation and excitement for the opportunity for me to present him with my gift. That very same evening, after dinner, Dad needed us ladies to clear the room so he could answer nature’s call. I’d decided that Dad seemed to be awake for a while now, and after it was safe to return to the living room, I’d ask him if he was ready for his gift. Well, when that time came, I quickly learned that an ambulance was already called and on its way.
Mama Shannon said that she’d meet him at the hospital, but Dad was so worried about her recovery from her leg surgery that occurred a few days prior, so he had put his foot down and told her she was staying home. While all of this was going on, and with the knowledge I’d just learned about an ambulance on its way, a huge feeling of dread instantly washed over me from head to toe. I was so intensely overwhelmed with this feeling, along with an array of other strong emotions quickly following suit that I’d quietly snuck off to the guest bedroom, buried my face into the covers of the bed, and wept.
Honest to God, I’d never cried so hard in my life, and the tears were endless. I don’t know when my Grams came in to check on me, but when she did, she tried to get me to go talk to him. At first, I refused, and I’d told her it was because I didn’t want the last image of my dad alive to be taken away in an ambulance. So she comforted me to the best she could, and then she left the room. Little did I know, she was asking my brother, Andrew, to hold the ambulance from driving away with dad. Then she’d returned to me, and had another go at coaxing me to go talk to him.
I was sitting on the bed now, Indian-style with a pillow clutched in my arms and against my chest, and her words seemed to pierce me in a way I couldn’t ignore. She knew, and I knew. I honest to God don’t know how we knew, but we knew. She said that if I didn’t go out and see him, I may never see him alive again. I love her so much for what she did for me at that moment. I was scared out of my mind to see him being pulled away in an ambulance, but my Grams made sense.
So, I went. With tears pouring down my red face, I climbed into the ambulance, and the whole EMS team turned silent. I’d never felt so many pairs of eyes on me at once. Dad saw me, and as I approached him, he told me everything was going to be okay. I needed to hug him. I needed it, and he needed it too, but I couldn’t give him a normal hug. He was strapped into the gurney, and he was in so much pain, anyway.
So, I did the only thing I knew was feasible. I didn’t even think about it. All I knew was that it just felt right. I gently wrapped my left hand around the back of his head and lovingly lifted his head from the gurney. With a tender touch of the side of my head pressed to his, I told him how much I loved him, and it goes without saying that he told me too, followed by another gentle reassurance of, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
It took everything for me not to collapse in the driveway as I saw the ambulance drive off with my daddy. One of my bonus grandmas, Lisa, pulled me into her arms and kept me there until I was ready to go back inside. Once I was inside and sitting down, I remembered that I never got to give him my Father’s Day gift, and I was leaving with Grams the next day to return home. However, it was decided that I’d simply go see Dad at the hospital. After all, the hospital was only fifteen minutes from the airport, and we didn’t have to be at the airport until around 3 in the afternoon the next day.
Hand to God, I was jolted awake around 5-6 o’clock Monday morning, and I’ve felt jolting wakes before in the past, but this one was odd. I couldn’t place my finger on why at that moment, but I sensed something was … off. Later that morning while packing for the flight and getting ready to go see Dad, I found out I’d been scheduled to work that same day, and that there’d been some miscommunication about the exact return date to work. I was dumbfounded, as I couldn’t believe this was happening, but I needed a quick resolution and did what I had to in order to get back to the task at hand, visiting my dad at the VA hospital and finally giving him my Father’s Day gift.
Grandma Lisa drove me and Grams to the hospital, and I kid you not, just as we’d pulled into the parking lot, Mama Shannon called to tell us that Dad had coded. They called to announce this to her, and they’d said they would continue to do everything they could to bring him back and stabilize him. It was about 12:33 PM Central time when he coded, and I know this because I’d been communicating with my fellow co-worker about her picking me up at the airport when Grams and I return to PA. It was 1:02 PM when we were told they brought him back. However, they’d been working on him for over 25 minutes, and after 15 minutes with no oxygen to the brain (which they tried so hard to get back), recovery of the brain function is virtually impossible.
Soon enough, when Mama Shannon arrived, we were all then allowed by Dad’s bedside, and as I sat there holding his hand, I now faced the question, “Do I stay or do I go?” It bothered Grams on so many levels just being there, and her Garmin Vivo smartwatch had registered several majorly concerning spikes in her heart rate (I didn’t know this fact until a little later). It was easy to see the stress on her face and know the toll it was taking on her. I hated the idea of leaving Daddy, though.
I didn’t want to leave, but Grams has Congestive Heart Failure, and she didn’t have enough medicines to last another week, as she hadn’t anticipated this outcome, and she only takes what she feels is necessary to bring. Even if she did bring another week’s worth of medicines, she wouldn’t have been able to handle the rest of this trip. It killed me to leave my daddy’s bedside because I knew he wasn’t coming back. At the hospital, we made the decision for me to return alone in a few days after I’d gotten Grams home, but it damn near broke me leaving the tarmac of the airport once I’d boarded the plane with Grams. However, near the end of our first flight home, there was a freaky moment, which I now like to call a blessing.
So, our first flight landed in St. Louis, MO at about quarter to 7 PM Central Time. Shortly before landing, a flight attendant did the strangest thing. She sang a song over the speakerphone that only my daddy sang to me. The song was, You Are My Sunshine. He always called me his sunshine because he loved the way my red hair glistened under the sun, and there would be times we’d sing this song together, but mostly it was him singing it to me. About halfway through this flight, I found a way to get my emotions back under control so I could focus on simply getting home, but when that talented flight steward sang as we were coming in for a landing, I couldn’t help but break out in tears again.
A few minutes later, at 6:56 PM on my way to the next gate, I received the call that my loving daddy had passed away. It took every fiber of my being to just not crumble to the floor in the middle of the airport. My soul felt like it splintered in so many ways at that moment. A huge part of me died that day. Looking back on this day, though, I now knew two things:
- That sense of waking up with a jolt was God telling me to get to the hospital sooner. Yet, I wasn’t in the right mind frame, and I wasn’t even really walking by faith, so I wasn’t receptive to God’s voice or His messages at all.
- The flight attendant singing, You Are My Sunshine, was a blessing. It was my loving daddy sending me a message that everything was okay, that he was okay.
When I got home at about 1:30 that night, I took out all my hand-written letters from Dad that he wrote to me, and I read them one by one, until I got to the last one. When he hand-delivered these letters to me on the same visit where we met for the first time in person, he made me promise not to open the last one until the date of his passing. So, without another moment’s notice, I gently opened the sealed envelope. I won’t go into the details of the letter, because his words are so precious to me, but I will tell you this:
All the letters, with the exception of the last one, he wrote to me on various but vital dates during my life growing up. It was his way of making up for the years he missed … by writing these letters to me as if he truly was there in my life all along, from birth to today. He wrote everyone single one of these letters just three weeks after we found each other back in 2019. By then, he’d known pretty much everything there was to know about me. He knew writing was my passion, so he knew these letters would be a blessing to me whenever I needed or wanted to read them.
As soon as the funeral arrangements were made, I’d booked a solo flight back out to Arkansas, and with me, I carried all my letters from Dad, but what went everywhere with me on this second trip was the last letter and my favorite photo of my dad. This went with me to the viewing and the funeral, though at the interment I only remember taking the photo to the service. All three of Dad’s services were so beautifully arranged. There was a North Little Rock police officer saluting and guarding his casket at the viewing, and at the funeral, Dad got military honors, and he also received a 21-gun salute at the cemetery with police honors.
Before the viewing on Friday, I was presented with an opportunity to see Dad at the funeral home, and I jumped on it. I never got to give Dad my Father’s Day gift, and while it wasn’t the way I originally wanted it to be done, it was better than nothing, and I needed to do it for closure. I chose to believe that Dad was standing beside me as grandma Lisa played the audio file I crafted while I’d recited the 2-page poem I’d written about the day I was born. I couldn’t get through the recital without tears, obviously, and Lisa had an arm around me too.
It was my Dad’s funeral that moved me, that a new shift in me began. His Pastor Paul had the wonderful honors of hosting the service at their church, and what a moving service it was! Between the pastor’s speech about Heaven and Dad finally being with God, with the question, “Are you sure you’re going to Heaven?” That message of getting right with God, along with Dad’s final words in his last letter asking me to keep my faith and draw near to God, it changed me. Dad’s final words were that he wanted to see me again, and he wrote that he was waiting for me. These were the sparks I needed to rekindle my faith.
There have just been too many signs for me to ignore. Since Dad’s passing, I’ve had countless experiences with his presence by my side, along with messages coming directly from him. Just this past Saturday night at 11:59 Eastern time, I was bombarded on my social media newsfeeds with ads of a sunflower necklace that opened up to read “You are my sunshine.” Keep in mind that not once have I looked up the song to listen to it or anything, for I had no need to, so it was totally random.
After the third ad from a third company at this moment, I finally decided this was a necklace meant I was meant to have, so I bought it. Honest to God, the next thing I see on my social media is a pretty necklace with a blue galaxy, a moon, and a star, and next to it had the following messages:
If you take a look at the time, you’ll see this went on for a good 45 minutes until you reach the necklace of butterflies. Butterflies are a blessing from Heaven, usually meant to say one of a few things from one who’s passed on: you’re not alone, that this is not the end, that everything is okay. Interestingly enough, I had a tiny cabbage white butterfly land on my right wrist outside by grandma Lisa’s car as we packed my suitcase.
At first, from my peripheral vision, I thought it was a bug and tried to shake it off, but it had its firm grip on my wrist, and suddenly as I saw it was a butterfly, I was overwhelmed with a strong feeling of peace and stillness in my heart. And these are just a few! The sunflower also came up for me twice before on social media with the song and music playing for, You Are My Sunshine, on two separate occasions apart from Saturday’s.
When he was alive in physical form, he and I had formed such a strong emotional connection, a bond that is unshakeable. We’d had so many late-night conversations that were deep, and we’d each brought all our flaws and vulnerabilities before one another, and we accepted each other as we were. I look at myself and all I see in the mirror is his face in mine. There are days when I will seem fine one minute while showering or getting ready for the day, but then I catch myself losing my breath as if it was just sucked right out of me. Then I have to fight to hold back the tears because my time is not my own during the day.
I feel his presence strongest at night when I’m alone in my room when I’m reading the Bible, or listening and singing along to worship music, or just plain letting the tears fall. This is my time to open up my heart and let it do what it needs to do. However, just like what I felt so deeply in my bones for what was going to happen with him, so too I’ve been feeling for the coming days, with a deep, intense feeling of dread in a direction that’s still currently unknown.
I don’t think he’ll always be present, but I do think he’s present for this new, rocky season of my life. I do not know the length of this season, but I welcome his presence, anyway. I told him that if he needs to go, he can, but it’s comforting to me that I still feel his presence. It’s also a reminder to cherish the time I have left with those that mean something to me because tomorrow isn’t promised. Not for me, not for you, not for any of us.
I’m so thankful for the three and a half years I got to have with my loving daddy, be it in person or via the many countless conversations we’ve had through text messages, audio recordings, and video calls. I’m so thankful that he accepted me three and a half years ago and opened up his heart to me. I’d learned so, so much about him, and I’m so thankful he shared so much with me, the good and honorable, and the bad and ugly. He never judged me or my past, accepted me as I was, and he was a special guide for me to get back into my faith.
I can’t even count how many people came up to me at his services and told me how big of a presence he was in their own lives, how much good he did for them, how kind he was, and how he talked about me a lot and was so overjoyed to have found me and had me in his life. I don’t remember everyone’s faces and their names, but their words hit so deep. He was loved by so many, not only by close friends and family but also by so many in the church, in the police force, and in the community.
He was a giant who’d overcome so much adversity. He had a huge heart for God and people, and he gave back to the community by ensuring safety for others through eight years of Air Force service (with four medals of commendation), three years in the Navy Reserves after 9/11, and 27.5 years of work on the police force in a combination of years with the North Little Rock Police Department and climbing the ranks to Captain at the UAMS Police Force.
Even when he retired, he was still head of security at his church, and he trained others in active shooter awareness and preparedness. This was his legacy, and he’s a hero. He is whole, and he is healed. He is happy, and even though he’s no longer living in the body from which he was born, his legacy still lives on. His presence still lingers, ’cause he’s forever in our hearts.
Thank you, Daddy, for being a giant in my life. Thank you for never turning me away, for accepting me as I was, for loving me as I am. Thank you for being a gentle and positive ray of sunshine in my life. Thank you for all your messages of hope and deliverance, for bringing me back to this path of faith from which I was straying. I thank you also for the many memories we created together. Thank you for believing in me and being one of the biggest supporters of my writing career.
In the end of the letter with your final words, you told me this wasn’t goodbye, because that would mean never seeing you again, and I truly believe that too. So, I’m not ending this blog to say this is the end of a journey that I’d been on for so long. This is merely the beginning, ’cause there are so many more precious moments to be had, so much has yet to be written in our family and our blessings. I know deep down in my heart, in my soul, just where you are.
I used to want my baby brother’s face to be the first face I see when it’s my time to be called home, but now I’m praying it’s not too much to ask if you and Kristopher could be side by side instead, ’cause I want to see both of you at the same time and then forever. But until I see you again, Daddy, I love you, and I always will.